Friday, September 06, 2013

Appeal to Procedure

Some of you may have heard that a Montana judge imposed a thirty-day sentence in a statutory rape case where s teacher slept with a 14 year old student. Some of you may have then read that the judge was planning to revisit that sentence. And then finally some of you may have read today's headline, which states that "Montana high court blocks hearing on resentencing rapist of girl". And you might have every right to be upset -- except this headline is misleading.

The ruling here does not necessarily mean that the original sentence will stand. Rather, it is a very mundane point of procedure: the trial court can't revisit the sentence at this stage; rather, the remedy is for the appellate courts to review the sentence. As both the prosecution and the defense argued, allowing the trial court to redo its sentencing would dramatically muddy the legal waters on appeal and make it far harder for the appellate courts to provide a full and fair review of the original (or revised) sentence.

So boo to misleading headlines, but everybody else take a deep breath. You may need to save your outrage for later, but at least keep it in the pocket for now.

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